These turtle bars are indescribably good, layered with a quick crust, topped with pecan halves, covered with an insanely easy caramel made in the microwave, finished off with a dark chocolate layer. Vegan and paleo, this combo of caramel, pecans, and dark chocolate makes these perfect healthy Christmas treats or bars for anytime!
Hi, how are you?
I ate one of these turtle bars for breakfast. So… you could say I’m living my very best life.
You see, I grew up with these turtle bars, although they weren’t healthy or paleo or vegan. Nah, they were made with good, old-fashioned white and brown sugar, loads of butter, white flour, all of it. And as addicted to them as I was (and am – I mean…), I’ve been obsessed with making a healthy version. One that’s paleo and vegan, that doesn’t make me feel bloated or make my skin hot.
One that made my husband text me:
I can never tell when he’s kidding? I mean, should you eat 5? Probably not. Was he hoping I would sincerely respond with, “Actually yes, that would be just fine!” I’m almost certain of it.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- I mean, they’re vegan and paleo! That means they’re a healthy version of a beloved holiday treat, although I think the classic caramel + pecan + chocolate flavors work anytime.
- These healthy turtle bars are surprisingly easy. The caramel is made in the microwave!
- They’re oh so rich with a gluten-free and grain-free shortbread crust, a wonderful, easy caramel sauce, tender pecans, and sweet chocolate.
- Almond flour, coconut flour, and rrowroot starch (This combination of flours mimics all-purpose flour better than an individual grain-free flour would.)
- Coconut oil
- Coconut sugar
- Maple syrup
- Coconut cream
- Vanilla extract
- Salt – A nice kick of salt in your caramel sauce is oh so good!
- Chocolate chips
- Pecan halves
How to make them
Combine all the crust ingredients, starting with only 1/3 cup room-temperature coconut oil, in a food processor. Pulse to combine and incorporate the coconut oil. Press the mixture between two fingers; if it presses together, move on to the next step. If it’s still quite crumbly, add an extra 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil. You want the mixture to press together without being too oily.
Line an 8×8″ or 9×13″ pan with parchment paper. The square pan will result in thicker bars, whereas the 9×13″ will result in thinner bars, but either will work.
Press the crust mixture into the parchment-lined pan then bake at 350º for 20 minutes or until firm.
Meanwhile, make your caramel. Combine all caramel ingredients in a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 2 minutes, stir. Microwave another 2 minutes, stir. Microwave 1 more minute, stir. Your caramel should be a rich, medium brown and should be much thicker than the mixture you started with. It should look like caramel. If it’s not there yet, continue to microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between each round, until it’s thick and rich without being too dark.
Sprinkle the top of your baked crust evenly with pecan halves. Pour the caramel over and bake 7-10 minutes or until bubbly.
Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes then use a butter knife or offset spatula to smooth melted chocolate chips over evenly.
Chill a couple hours then lift out of pan with parchment sides. Cut into squares.
- Make sure you use refined coconut oil so you don’t get a real “coconutty” taste in your crust!
- Start with only 1/3 cup coconut oil and add a little more as needed for your crust to press together when pinched without feeling saturated.
- Make sure your coconut oil is nice and soft. If you have to microwave it slightly to keep it from being super hard and completely solid, that’s fine, but you want it to still be pretty darn solid!
- Microwave your caramel in a bowl at least double the size of the ingredients. It will bubble up intensely when you stir it!
- Microwave your caramel in spurts after the recommended time until it’s a rich, medium brown color and is thickened. You will go through a phase where the caramel almost looks grey – don’t freak out! I promise it’s going to get better!
- If you don’t use or don’t have a microwave, you can absolutely make this caramel on the stovetop. Follow these directions or try using your Instant Pot instead!
Other recipes you’ll love:
- Healthy Cookie Dough (Vegan, Paleo)
- Paleo Cranberry Bliss Bars (Vegan)
- Paleo Microwave Cookie
- Paleo Chocolate Cups with Caramel
- Instant Pot Caramel Sauce (Vegan, Paleo)
- 1 cup almond flour
- ¾ cup coconut flour
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot flour
- ⅓ cup coconut oil up to 1/2 cup as needed for texture
- ⅔ cup coconut sugar
- 1 cup coconut cream just the solid white part from a can of coconut milk or cream
- 2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- Big pinch of salt
- ½ teaspon vanilla
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 1 cup vegan chocolate chips like Enjoy Life
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- In a food processor, combine all the crust ingredients, starting with 1/3 cup room-temperature coconut oil. Pulse to combine and incorporate coconut oil.
- Press the mixture between two fingers; if it presses together, move on to the next step. If it's still quite crumbly, add an extra 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil. Use the least amount possible. You want the mixture to pinch together without being too greasy.
- Line an 8x8" or 9x13" pan with parchment paper - use the square pan for thicker bars and the rectangular pan for thinner. Either pan is fine.
- Evenly press the crust mixture into the parchment-lined pan. Bake for 20 minutes until firm.
- Meanwhile, make your caramel. Combine all caramel ingredients in a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 2 minutes, stir. Microwave another 2 minutes, stir. Microwave 1 more minute, stir. Your caramel should be a rich, medium brown and should be much thicker than the mixture you started with. It should look like caramel. If it's not there yet, continue to microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between each round, until it's thick and rich without being too dark. Alternately, make caramel on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot. See notes.
- Sprinkle the top of your baked crust evenly with pecan halves. Carefully pour the caramel over; bowl with caramel will be very hot! Bake 7-10 minutes or until caramel is bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes then use a butter knife or offset spatula to smooth melted chocolate chips over evenly.
- Chill a couple hours then lift out of pan with parchment sides. Cut into squares.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.